Las Vegas, NM – As part of President Sam Minner’s top priorities for this fiscal year, New Mexico Highlands University has hired a web content manager and a website consultant to oversee the creation of a new website for the university.
Anne Maclachlan has a background in online journalism, print publishing and website content development, and has taught English as a second language at international schools in the U.S. and Australia. “It’s a real pleasure to be back in academia,” said Maclachlan, who holds a degree in linguistics from Swarthmore College. She plans to combine rich content development and rigorous journalism standards to build an inviting and informative online destination for both current and prospective Highlands students.
As the former editor of Santa Fean magazine, Maclachlan sees this undertaking as having the look and feel of an interactive online publication. “We want to present a truly welcoming website – a dynamic one that reflects the Highlands family’s diverse and exciting population. We’ll be providing prospective students with a cleaner, more easily navigable look at what we have to offer among the different campuses.”
Noting that a sense of the “Highlands Family” is missing from the current web content, Maclachlan intends to incorporate the dedication of Highlands staff and faculty in the new website. “I was deeply struck by this aspect as early as my first interview day,” she said. “It’s not a manufactured angle. It’s clearly a value that everyone here upholds.”
“Anne is strongly driven by ensuring students are the top priority in our online communications,” said Sean Weaver, director of university relations. “From day one, she has engaged students to solicit ideas and feedback on creating an exponentially more usable and engaging website.”
The web creation team is concentrating on eliminating the current site’s problems with searchability, outdated content, and extraneous information. “It’s frustrating to everyone that so much of the content is either duplicated or irrelevant,” said Maclachlan.
Streamlining the content is a huge task, but it will pay off, said Maclachlan. The result will provide more accurate information that is much faster and easier to find. Faculty and student input has been extremely helpful in this objective. “We have already begun running focus groups that encourage both critical and creative feedback from students and NMHU employees,” said Maclachlan. “It’s so important to hear from the people who use our site the most.”
To accomplish these goals quickly and effectively, Highlands has engaged consultant Chantal Forster, an expert in digital strategy for educational websites. Forster will be on campus February 20 and 21 to conduct focus group meetings and usability exercises to steer the new website’s design toward the way both current and prospective students actually want to use it.
Forster is the chief strategy consultant for her firm, Gibson Carlisle. She works with the public sector and nonprofit clients including Penn State, University of New Mexico, Sandia National Labs, Central New Mexico Community College and others to provide digital and IT systems strategy and implementation, customer experience strategy, team development, user-driven architecture and design, and project and portfolio management.
The new website is scheduled for launch in June, with content updates continuing over the next year.